The Woman Behind the Fence
Throughout my 48 years, I’ve had the good fortune of having some amazing women in my life. Whether it was my acting and choir friends when I was in high school, the girlfriends I had when I was single and living in the city, the coworkers I had in a very small office, or the mom friends I made when I had my kids, my female friendships have helped form who I am today.
These bonds of friendship are explored beautifully in the book, The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain and Power of Female Friendshipwhich is now available in paperback and Kindle.
I’m thrilled to announce that I am one of 50 contributors to this anthology, which was put together by Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger with a foreword by Jill Smokler of Scary Mommy. The diverse collection of essays covers all aspects of the relationships that can build us up, make us laugh, cause us pleasure and pain.
I found myself crying, laughing, and relating to each beautiful essay.
My contribution, The United Federation of Moms, is about my journey to find friends when I had my first child 15 years ago.
My mom friends were crucial in helping me adjust and love my new role as a stay-at-home mom.
But what happens when the role it took you time to grow into starts to change?
Five years ago I found myself at such a crossroads.
After being home for ten years with three children, all who had some learning differences, including our daughter who has significant special needs, my role was starting to change.
Our youngest child, Peter, had turned three and was now in preschool five mornings a week. Instead of getting all of his therapies at our house, he would receive them at school.
All of a sudden the therapists who had become my friends were gone, and I found myself with time on my hands. My kids were getting older, Lizzy was in full-day kindergarten, and Tom was in fourth grade.
The writing was on the wall. I was going to have to redefine who I was beyond the full time caregiver of my children.
It was at this same time that I found my friend, Maria, who has lived behind me since we moved to our home 12 years ago.
Back then I was a mom of a two-year-old Tom and pregnant with Lizzy.
We had just left Queens and with it the group of women who meant the world to me and my son. Though I now lived only six blocks from my parents and where I grew up, I really didn’t know anyone. Once again I found myself lonely and desperate for friends.
Oddly enough, more than a year went by before Maria and I met.
I could hear the sounds of a child in her yard, but due to how our houses are situated, it wasn’t easy to just poke my head over the fence and start talking. We had fences and trees separating us. It wasn’t that I didn’t try, on our daily cruising for friends’ walks, I mean, stroller walks, I would always go a bit slower when I reached her house hoping to spot the people the voices belonged to. But for some reason the opportunity to meet never presented itself.
We had been living in our home for well over a year when one day I was walking with a three year old Tom and a baby Lizzy when I spotted Maria outside with her adorable daughter. We laughed over the fact that it took us this long to meet. Especially since her daughter, Laura, and Tom were around the same age.
We chatted for a while, exchanged numbers and planned to get together. But things came up, and we were never able to meet. She was a teacher and worked during the school year, and I was a stay-at-home mom, we didn’t really run into each other very often.
After I had Peter, I became fully immersed in the crazy life of being a stay-at-home mom to three. She continued to teach high school and was happily in the one-and-done club. We would see each other at school functions and around the neighborhood and always greeted each other warmly, but we just didn’t seem destined to become friends.
Then one day, it just sort of happened.
I was all alone in my car driving home from dropping off Peter at his new preschool program. I was feeling a bit lost. What was I going to do with myself till 12:30?
Just as I was pondering my newfound freedom I heard a honk. There was Maria in the car across from me smiling and waving.
We were at the same intersection, literally and figuratively.
Windows were turned down, and we started to yell out the new facts of our life to each other. We were glad the kids were in the same class. She let me know she was no longer teaching. I told her Peter was now in school five mornings a week. Horns started to honk at us, and we had to get on our way, but not before we decided that we would finally meet up.
That was the beginning of many, many more conversations, coffee dates, walking dates, movie dates, going to the gym together, and generally being what my husband calls, BFF’s. In fact he never calls Maria by her name, it is always, I ran into your BFF at the store, or your BFF is on the phone.
I adore her. Not just because she makes me laugh and shares my deep and abiding love of coffee. Maria has always believed in me.
When life gets complicated with Lizzy and her special needs, it is Maria that assures me that my instincts are right and that I’m a good mom.
When there was a three week period when each one of my kids was sick, and I was stuck in my house going crazy, it was Maria that would drop off a cup of coffee, or cookies, or flowers.
She would laugh at my stories and encourage me to write them down. She was with me from the very beginning of my blogging journey and has seen me go from a woman who had no idea how to send an email (I had to call her) to one who now calls herself a blogger and writer.
I watched Maria go from a woman who wasn’t sure what her next career path would be, to her becoming a volunteer at her church’s outreach center, to her current job of running a nearby church’s parish outreach center.
As I was thinking about our friendship, it struck me that though we have much in common, including each having a kid that is the same age, living in the same neighborhood, and being married for the same amount of time to men we consider our best friends, our friendship didn’t grow out of these roles but rather from a need we each had to move beyond them.
It may have taken us eight years to become friends, but as things worked out, we were exactly what the other one needed at just the right time.
To celebrate the launch of the book Jessica and Stephanie have made The HerStories Project available for Free download through December 4.